For the first 20 years of the 20th century, it’s fair to say that we’ve been living in a predominantly visual world. But now the new 20s is upon us, it’s time to make a sound. As traditional broadcast media declines, people across the globe are embracing audio thanks to its accessibility, versatility and ultimate ease of adoption. Equally beneficial to the marketer as the consumer, it offers high levels of personalisation – with the unique ability to cement itself in the mind at great speed. Looking at the most significant audio trends for the year, it’s voice and content that are making the biggest noise – with large and small businesses alike making the most of the opportunities they present.
When voice activation technology first came to the fore, many experts predicted that 50% of all online searches would be via voice by 2020 – and there’s a host of evidence to suggest that we’re on track to reaching this. A smart speaker is now present in 66 million American homes and 1 in 5 UK households (Voicebot.AI/Voiceify); there’s set to be a quarter of a billion connected cars on the roads; and 63% of ‘the internet of things’ consists of app-enabled items like dishwashers and thermostats (Gartner). These devices all present the opportunity to interact with consumers – and they mean business. Voice-based shopping is set to rise to $40 billion by 2022 (OC&C Strategy Consultants), as increasing numbers of consumers use their devices to make regular purchases of common household items. This has opened the doors for a host of businesses to develop content or skills for the platform – while introducing important new branding considerations. As audio branding ambassador and renowned entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk points out:
Uber, Kleenex and Xerox et al are known as proprietary eponyms – a trademark or brand name that has become the generic name (or synonymous with) an entire class of products or services, due to popularity or significance. In this new voice-led world, more pressure will be placed on companies to become this go-to name in their arena – so they’re the first that comes to mind in the spoken purchase.
The trend for content marketing is nothing new, but what’s becoming all the more important is the diversification of this content into audio channels – presenting both a challenge and an opportunity for brands. While audio is consumed across a number of different mediums, its podcasts in particular that illustrate the rise of the listening audience as people turn away from TV. 51% of Americans have tuned in to a podcast and 32% listen monthly (Edison Research) – while one in eight people in the UK catch up on podcast episodes each week (Ofcom). This rise in popularity is predominantly attributed to their accessibility. The number one reason people say they enjoy podcasts is that ‘you can do other things while listening’. (Edison Research) – but they remain engaged with the content while taking on these other activities such as driving, cooking or exercising. When businesses tap into this multitasking audience, they can make the most of these opportunities for engagement that happen so often in a listener’s daily life – whether they create their own branded podcasts, or take the medium as prime advertising space. Shopify, Sephora and ZipRecruiter are all names that have done this effectively – and many more are set to come to the fore. By the end of 2019, marketers had spent $479 million on podcasts, and this figure is only set to rise as increasing numbers of companies align themselves with this type of quality, engaging content.
A sonic strategy for every business:
What makes audio such an important addition to the marketing mix is its universality for every type of business. The overall aim for all companies should be to create re-usable sonic assets that drive recognition across every auditory touchpoint, and as Founder and CEO of Amp, Michele Arnese, points out, this is only possible by developing ‘a strategy based on unique sound DNA, and the creation of authentic music, sounds and voices.’ Authenticity is a key word here, particularly when it comes to music. Even leading-name brands are known to use existing songs as part of their brand identity, and while they may be recognisable, they never wholly become part of their DNA – it’s merely rented. By committing to developing an exclusive track, every business will forge a true sonic identity. And while large companies may wish to create a sonic ecosystem that extends across every conceivable channel, smaller companies can choose to apply their audio assets in the platforms with the highest reach and impact – which will pay dividends in terms of engagement.
One such channel that has a high reach and impact for every type of business is hold time – which represents a prime opportunity to introduce audio in a way that meets the key voice and content trends for 2020. Equally captive as the multitasking podcast listener, the on-hold audience is engaged and primed to do business with you – so introducing content here is a valuable way to educate about all aspects of your company; strengthen communication; and employ key audio assets in terms of voice and music. By matching a company with a voice artist that represents the qualities of their personality, they'll deliver content in the most on-brand way. And these messages will be mixed with an exclusive, authentic track that captures identity with true emotion. With this On-Hold Marketing production in place, the individual assets of voice, copy and music can be deployed in any audio channel that’s relevant for your business – making it an important first stage of your sonic strategy.
It’s an age of audio opportunities – so speak up, play out, and seize your chance to be heard by a consumer that’s ready to listen.